Definition of sweep in English:

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Pronunciation: /swiːp/

verb (sweeps, sweeping; past and past participle swept /swɛpt/)

[with object]
1Clean (an area) by brushing away dirt or litter: I’ve swept the floor Greg swept out the kitchen
More example sentences
  • She swept out the dirt floor, her broom struck something under the bed.
  • Stable boys were bedding the horses down for the night or sweeping the stabling area clean.
  • ‘We can cram in loads of people and it doesn't matter if anything gets dropped, as it can be swept out the next morning,’ says Skelton.
brush, clean, scrub, wipe, mop, dust, scour, scrape, rake, buff;
vacuum, hoover
informal do
1.1 [with object and adverbial of direction] Move or remove (dirt or litter) by brushing it away: she swept the tea leaves into a dustpan
More example sentences
  • Before beginning the sanding procedure carefully sweep all dirt, dust and other debris from the floor.
  • She didn't have a beautiful garden, but she kept the place neat and tidy, even to the point where she swept the bare dirt in her yard.
  • I said that I had a broom but I didn't have a pan to sweep the dirt into.
remove, wash away, expel, dispose of, eliminate, get rid of;
brush, clean, clear, whisk
1.2 [with object and adverbial of direction] Move or push (someone or something) with great force: I was swept along by the crowd figurative Nahum’s smile swept away the air of apprehensive gloom
More example sentences
  • I was swept along with the crowd and found myself genuinely delighted when Fulham went ahead.
  • She did not wish to go to the top, for she knew what would take place and had no desire to see it, but her own feelings were quelled and she was docilely swept along with the crowd.
  • The riotous crowd around him swept him along through arcane underground tunnels to a vaulted hall.
carry, pull, drag, drive
1.3 [with object and adverbial of direction] Brush (hair) back from one’s face or upwards: long hair swept up into a high chignon
More example sentences
  • Her long, curling dark hair had been swept upwards into the most fashionable style as of late, pinned into place by delicate silver gems that shone in her hair.
  • She picked up her brush and quickly swept her long hair into a fashionable ponytail and then got up and walked over to her closet, which was brimming with clothes.
  • Tilting her face upwards, she swept her long hair back, her hand skimming the stitches along her hairline.
1.4 Cricket Hit (the ball) on the leg side by bringing the bat across the body from a half-kneeling position; hit a ball delivered by (a bowler) with such a stroke.
Example sentences
  • He attempted to sweep the second ball he faced, but was rapped on the pad and Asad Rauf gave him out.
  • Next, Afridi swept one powerfully over midwicket, and later in the same tonked one over wide long-on.
  • An injured Chaminda Vaas hit three boundaries in an enterprising knock of 19, before losing the ball in an attempt to sweep Banks.
2 [no object, with adverbial of direction] Move swiftly and smoothly: a large black car swept past the open windows figurative his cool grey eyes swept over her
More example sentences
  • Dressed in an oriental-style black and white top and designer jeans, Georgina held her hand up to her face as the car swept past the waiting crowds.
  • As the fire swept over the car the fuel tank began to boil and a six metre jet of flames spurted out of the back of the car.
  • We walked down the tar road that was shimmering in the heat, dodging the occasional car sweeping past, until we came to the bridge.
glide, sail, dash, charge, rush, streak, speed, fly, zoom, swoop, whizz, hurtle
informal tear
2.1(Of a person) move in a confident and stately manner: she swept magnificently from the hall
glide, sail, stride, breeze, stroll, sally, swagger, drift, flit, flounce
2.2Affect (an area or place) swiftly and widely: the rebellion had swept through all four of the country’s provinces [with object]: violence swept the country
More example sentences
  • The classic example has been the Toronto Blessing, which came to Slovakia via the UK, and swept through many churches affecting thousands of believers.
  • On the morning of August 16, hundreds of soldiers surrounded and swept through areas of the northern town of Mannar and suburbs.
  • Fifty years ago, an epidemic swept across this nation affecting millions of people and lasting for many years.
engulf, overwhelm, flood, flow across, surge over
race, hurtle, streak, spread like lightning
informal tear, whip
2.3(Of a geographical or natural feature) extend continuously in a particular direction, especially in a curve: green forests swept down the hillsides
More example sentences
  • Escape Fire refers to a 1949 tragedy in Montana in which 13 young firefighters died in a wildfire that was sweeping up a hillside.
  • The exact moment of being in the picture was when in the far distance about 100 goats could be seen sweeping down the hillside towards the village.
  • It is here that the roaring tide of the Philippine Sea, moving northwards, meets the mighty current of the Pacific Ocean, sweeping down in the opposite direction.
2.4 [with object] North American Win all the games in (a series); take each of the winning or main places in (a contest or event): we knew we had to sweep these three home games
More example sentences
  • In the 1966 World Series, the LA Dodgers played the Baltimore Orioles who swept the Series in four games.
  • The Heat, the lone new face in the Eastern semi-finals, also swept their first-round series, beating the Pistons in three games.
  • Cleveland threatened to break away by sweeping a three game series in the first 2001 meeting between the Indians and the Twins.
3Search (an area) for something: the detective swept the room for hair and fingerprints
More example sentences
  • Then I take off at a jog across the tilled field, carefully avoiding the search tower spotlights which sweep the area under the beady eye of the armed guards.
  • Only seconds after removing the vent cover and ducking inside, nearly a dozen powerful beams of light swept the area in search of the intruder.
  • Lonely eyes swept the room, searching for open arms or warm eyes.
search, probe, check, explore, hunt through, look through, delve in, go through, sift through, scour, comb, go through with a fine-tooth comb, leave no stone unturned in
3.1Examine (something) for electronic listening devices: the line is swept every fifteen minutes
More example sentences
  • Kyle had swept it for listening devices and when he said it was clear the girl had immediately blurted out a million questions.
  • Mr Brennan told the tribunal last month the meeting room was swept for electronic bugging devices before and during these presentations.
  • Because of this, Digifone had 24-hour security, while a security firm swept the offices for listening devices every two weeks.
3.2Cover (an entire area) with a gun: they were trying to get the Lewis gun up behind some trees from where they would sweep the trench
More example sentences
  • In some instances, they would place antipersonnel mines in the vicinity of the IEDs in the hopes of killing soldiers sweeping the area around an IED.
  • Sergeant Irving told his squad to sweep the area.
  • To find the reserves, you'd have use massive manpower to cordon off the state, moving inward, sweeping every single building you came to.


1An act of sweeping something with a brush: I was giving the floor a quick sweep
More example sentences
  • George, a brilliant if self absorbed painter, might possess the artistic vision to transform a group of hooligans into a band of angels with a single sweep of his brush.
  • Vegetable fibers act a little like a brush which cleans and sweeps.
  • The style is abbreviated, apparently deliberately imitating Cheret's poster technique, with broad sweeps of the brush giving blocks of colour both in the figure and the background.
1.1 short for chimney sweep.
Example sentences
  • A good way to be sure the sweep servicing your chimney is currently Certified is to check the search engine on this website or call the CSIA office.
  • When coal fires were the norm, households would employ a sweep to ensure their chimneys were spotlessly clean.
  • When your chimney is swept, the sweep will use the amount of soot he removes as a guide to often the chimney needs cleaning.
2A long, swift curving movement: a grandiose sweep of his hand
More example sentences
  • He gestured encompassing the whole realm with the sweep of his hand.
gesture, movement, move, action, stroke, wave
2.1 Electronics The movement of a beam across the screen of a cathode ray tube.
2.2 Cricket An attacking stroke in which the bat is brought across the body from a half-kneeling position to hit the ball to leg.
Example sentences
  • Attempting a sweep, the ball ballooned off his left forearm but it was difficult to tell whether it brushed the glove on the way past.
  • As long as Jaques survived Yorkshire were in with a shout but after hammering 70 from 46 balls he top-edged a sweep at Dalrymple and lobbed a catch to Weekes at leg slip.
  • Ponting tried a lazy sweep and merely top-edged it to Vaughan at short fine leg.
3A comprehensive search or survey of a place or area: the police finished their sweep through the woods
More example sentences
  • The incident caused a traffic jam along the Banda Aceh-Medan route as police officers conducted a sweep of the area hoping to apprehend the attackers, but to no avail.
  • Police concentrated their sweep on the areas around the Grand Hall Market in Soi Bua Khao and Wat Chaimongkol in South Pattaya.
  • The team sweeps into the area and takes over any investigation, often angering local officials.
search, hunt, exploration, probe, forage, pursuit, quest
3.1 (often sweeps) North American A survey of the ratings of television stations, carried out at regular intervals to determine advertising rates.
Example sentences
  • Did I think that it would descend to the depths of some people suggesting we were doing this because the networks are going into a sweeps period when ratings become important?
  • One TV critic even claimed we were doing it as a ‘craven ratings stunt for sweeps.’
  • The Golden Fleece here would appear to be a Nielsen rating during sweeps.
4A long, typically curved stretch of road, river, country, etc. we could see a wide sweep of country perhaps a hundred miles across
More example sentences
  • Mayor Feeney believes there would be greater benefits to the town if the new road took a wider sweep, perhaps coming out downstream of the college.
  • Sometimes he painted the scene from the Vétheuil side, as in Lavacourt of 1880, taking in the broad sweep of the river and the vast expanse of intensely blue sky.
  • Nzanga Mobutu stared out over the chocolate-brown sweep of the Congo river, and remembered his father.
expanse, tract, stretch, space, plain, extent, vastness, vista
4.1A curved part of a drive in front of a building: one fork of the drive continued on to the gravel sweep
More example sentences
  • A tree-lined driveway ends in a sweep in front of Old Hall, where there is a large front lawn and the grounds are surrounded by mature trees, secluding it almost completely.
curve, curvature, bend, arc, arch, bow, turn
4.2The range or scope of something: the whole sweep of the history of the USSR
More example sentences
  • But the whole sweep of history is to her as a closed book.
  • By turning your head, you seemed to take in the whole sweep of Irish history, from the Vikings to the plantation.
  • When the festival works best, it works - like any festival in any of the arts - because it has acquired a critical mass that gives it a sweep and scope greater than the sum of its individual parts.
range, span, scope, compass, reach, spread, ambit, remit, gamut, orbit, spectrum, sphere, purview, limit, extent
5 informal A sweepstake.
6North American An instance of winning every event, award, or place in a contest: a World Series sweep
More example sentences
  • It was the first sweep in the event since 1984 and once again highlighted the dominance of the Americans in track and field.
  • The victory gave Edwards a sweep of the Cup and Busch races at Atlanta that weekend, and he is the only driver to pick up his first checkered flag in both series the same weekend.
  • All in all, Japan's men took home five of six golds and went 1-2 in four events, including a sweep of the 700 backstroke.
7A long, heavy oar used to row a barge or other vessel: [as modifier]: a big, heavy sweep oar
More example sentences
  • Bhim, our Nepalese boatman on the sweep oar, skillfully hauls the raft around so that we hit the wave bow-on.
  • Although it is their first season in the pair, the brothers are medallists in the eight and are using their sweep oar talent to their advantage.
  • The former oyster pirate from San Francisco Bay was the man at the stern with the crucial sweep oar.
8A sail of a windmill.
9A long pole mounted as a lever for raising buckets from a well.



make a clean sweep

see clean.

sweep the board

Win every event or prize in a contest.
Example sentences
  • Honours went to a team from Nationwide building society in Swindon, which scooped the business trophy, while teams from the military swept the board in other events.
  • Neil Todd, of Gosforth, near Seascale, almost swept the board with 16 first prizes, including best vegetable exhibit.
  • American Beauty swept the board, a triumph of thoughtful, provocative cinema over Hollywood's usual predictable bilge.

sweep someone off their feet

see foot.

sweep something under the carpet

see carpet.


Old English swāpan (verb), of Germanic origin; related to German schweifen 'sweep in a curve'.

Words that rhyme with sweep

asleep, beep, bleep, cheap, cheep, creep, deep, heap, Jeep, keep, leap, neap, neep, peep, reap, seep, sheep, skin-deep, sleep, steep, Streep, veep, weep

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Line breaks: sweep

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